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Kruegers Settle Suit With Fiji Fraternity

By Matthew Kwan

The family of former MIT student Scott S. Krueger ’01 reached a settlement out of court with the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) on Sept. 10, thus dismissing the trial. Fiji along with the other defendants agreed to pay a total of $1.75 million to the Krueger family.

In addition, Fiji, one of the parties the Kruegers held responsible for the wrongful death of their son, Scott, also agreed to establish policies to encourage responsible drinking.

First, the national fraternity agreed to create a professional-grade videotape about drinking that it will both distribute to all Fiji chapters and present nationally in the North American Interfraternity Conference. Details of the video have not been finalized.

Fiji will also create a second video tape directed towards high school seniors interested in joining the fraternity, to be presented at the National Association of Secondary School Principals Conference.

“They [the two videotapes] will almost be the same. They will have the same base material, but different emphasis,” said Brad Henry, one of the senior attorneys for the Kruegers.

The videos are to be first presented in 2004 and updated every 5 years.

Fiji National has also promised to sponsor Dr. Richard Schwartzstein, Krueger’s physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, to speak at both conferences until the video can take his place.

Dr. Schwartzstein was also sponsored by Fiji and the Kruegers to speak at various high schools and colleges. “I assume the video [will show] him speaking,” Henry said.

The settlement also included the agreement that Fiji does not attempt to recharter a chapter at MIT earlier than 2009.

Representatives and lawyers from Phi Gamma Delta were unavailable for comment.

Discussions began in December

Although the Kruegers filed the complaint on Sept. 25, 2000, the parties did not begin to settle until the past few months. “We filed the case on September 2000, shortly after the MIT settlement,” Henry said.

The Kruegers listed Fiji National (located in Lexington, Kentucky), Malcolm Cotton Brown Corporation (which owned and controlled the former MIT fraternity building), and seven representatives of Fiji chapter at MIT. These seven representatives included four officers of the house and three others (the former president, pledge trainer, and Scott’s big brother) who the Krueger’s listed as “directly involved [with Scott’s death,” Henry said.

In the spring of 2001, the officers and defending representatives moved to dismiss the case held against them, but lost. The case proceeded with defendant testimonies until late 2001.

According to Henry, thousands of pages of testimonies were filed and a mediation (a non-binding facilitated negotiation) was held inside the courtrooms in December 2001. Discussions lasted until early in summer of 2002. The parties then moved to non-confidential negotiations and reached a final settlement there.

Krueger died after frat party

In 1997, Scott Krueger passed out while drinking at an fraternity event at Fiji, where he lived. Fraternity brothers placed him alone in the basement, where he choked on his vomit and fell into a coma. He died three days later. The fraternity had allegedly challenged Krueger and his pledge class to finish the alcohol they left in a room while they watched the movie Animal House, a Fiji tradition. After a delay, Krueger was rushed to a hospital with a blood alcohol level of 0.41. According to Dr. Schwartzstein, who treated Krueger, the level was the equivalent of drinking more than 10 beers over a very short period of time. In immediate response to the tragedy, the MIT Interfraternity Council announced a temporary ban of alcohol in all fraternities and off-campus living groups.

Three years after Krueger’s death, MIT agreed to pay $6 million for its role in his death. Of this amount, $1.25 million went toward a scholarship in Krueger’s memory and $4.75 million was paid to his parents as compensatory damages. The agreement included a public apology by MIT President Charles M. Vest for MIT’s role in Krueger’s death.

“The $1.75 million settled in the past months will also be used in the scholarship foundation and [will] be used to sponsor Dr. Schwartzstein around the country,” Henry said. “This was a case where a real difference is made. ... It’s unfortunately rare to see true change from a tragedy.”